For a disease that takes a life every 30 minutes in the UK, bowel cancer is very low profile. You would think that, as it is the UK's second biggest cancer killer, we would all be very aware of it and the need to beat it. But too often I have conversations that illustrate that people just don't know anything about the disease.
People think it affects only men. It doesn't. It affects men and women pretty much equally. People think that only the elderly get it. Not so. Too many young people get bowel cancer and the number of those who get it under 30 is growing. And, crucially, amongst those who have heard of bowel cancer, too many think that nothing really can be done. That it is "one of the bad ones". This need not be the case. The truth is bowel cancer can be beaten if diagnosed early. Stage 1 diagnosis - when the cancer is at the earliest stage of its development - has an incredible 97% five year survival rate.
I think a major reason for such lack of knowledge about bowel cancer and its potential to be beaten is that it deal with bottoms and bowels, and the symptoms of bowel cancer involve blood and poo. These aren't subjects for polite company. We need to change that. After all, it isn't that long since breast cancer or prostate cancer were also seen as taboo subjects. I can remember when any cancer was whispered as the "Big C". Luckily times have changed. We know that being aware saves lives and Beating Bowel Cancer plan to make more people aware of the disease.
It may sound gratuitous but we really do need to get people talking about bottoms and bowels. We need to have a conversation wherever and whenever we can about bowel cancer.
This month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month. To help break the taboo surrounding the disease, we at the charity are doing something pretty unusual. We are taking a giant, 9ft high toilet roll on tour (referred to in the office as the T.R.O.T!). We are beginning with our road shows in Manchester, Bristol and Milton Keynes. We want to stop people in their tracks and have a conversation about bowel cancer - perhaps the first someone has ever had. We are calling this and all our other activities this month a chance to 'Lift the Lid' on bowel cancer.
National Lift the Lid Day is on 22 April. We are asking everyone to have a conversation that day about bowel cancer - whether it's a chat about your own experiences; encouraging someone to learn the symptoms; encouraging an older family member or friend to take up a screening invitation; or encouraging someone who may be worried to talk to one of our nurse advisors or their GP. Every conversation you have counts.
So please lift the lid during April - over the phone, by text message, by email, through social media or simply by having a chat face to face. Share the message that bowel cancer, bums and poo are nothing to be embarrassed about, and learning the symptoms and acting on them could save lives.
Talking about it can save lives. Sparing people the embarrassment will not.
I like to think, in fact I firmly believe, that we will look back in five years' time and be amazed that we were too embarrassed to talk about something which could save lives.
Catch the Lift the Lid toilet roll on tour at:
17 April Milton Keynes - The Centre MK
22 April Bristol - Broadmead
25 April Manchester - Etihad Stadium
For more information about our Lift the Lid campaign, visit www.beatingbowelcancer.org/liftthelid